The Healing Tree

A journey of Ancestral Lineage Healing with my Shumway ancestors


Peter Shumway (Chamois) did not know exactly what the events of the day would bring on 19 December 1675. All he knew is that tensions between the New England colonists and the Indigenous peoples had been escalating, and that the English settlers were feeling threatened enough to take military action against the native peoples they had previously forged alliances with. However, since the early days of Plymouth, the English did not prove to be good settlers (despite the contrary narrative they managed to pass onto their descendants). Their many violations of treaties with the native people had caused frustrations for the Native Americans, and their abuse of the land and overextending of settlement boundaries left many of the New England tribes lacking in food and other resources critical to their survival and traditional ways of life. As a result, they saw a need to take action of their own.


What became known as King Philip's War began in June 1675 with a series of attacks by native peoples on the colonists' towns and individual homes. As tensions grew throughout the summer and into the fall, the New England colonists had raised large militias and were ready to fight.


On the cold, stormy New England morning of 19 December 1675, the militias from the three colonies (Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, and Connecticut) all combined to attack a fort of the Narragansett people in present-day Rhode Island where they had gathered for the winter, and where they had prepared their winter stores of food. Peter Shumway was among the men recruited from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and it's possible he and many of his other comrades may not have expected much to come from the attack. After all, the Narragansett tried to remain neutral in the conflicts up to this point and just two months before (in October 1675) had signed a treaty with the colonists pledging to be peaceful and neutral. However, top colonial leaders distrusted the Narragansett and were certain they were aiding other tribes who had entered into war with the colonies. So, they decided it was crucial to attack the Narragansetts despite the treaty.

An early depiction of the Great Swamp Massacre (Wikipedia)

That day ended with an estimated 600-1,000 Narragansett warriors, women, and children massacred. Many tried to escape in to the frozen swamps, but eventually died from exposure to the harsh elements. It became one of the most deadly massacres of Indigenous peoples in American history, and it nearly decimated the Narraganset people completely.


That event became known as the Great Swamp Fight; or, as is more accurately termed, the Great Swamp Massacre. I don’t know what Peter Shumway’s exact experience was in the massacre, but I know he was there. I have also come to learn the event traumatized and fractured his soul. After all, those who commit trauma on others inflict similar trauma within themselves (even if they are not aware of it).


Peter was a Huguenot; a Protestant refugee from Catholic aggression in France who had been welcomed by the Puritans in Massachusetts. And yet, here he was contributing his body and energies to fighting a people who had pledged to be peaceful. The irony of the inner conflict is almost palpable. Peter’s Protestant family had witnessed traumatic torture and murders of many of their own family members and friends simply for wishing to worship their God different than the Catholic ruling class demanded. This state of Catholic aggression had gone on for nearly 250 years until finally, Peter and thousands of other Huguenots, finally decided they had to leave France.

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of Huguenots in France (1572), Wikipedia

As best we can determine, Peter probably arrived in Massachusetts in 1665 with a group of about 150 Huguenot refugees who petitioned the Governor of Massachusetts for asylum. The petition was granted and the group was welcomed—provided they assimilate to the Puritan culture and ways of worship. Peter would have probably been in his early to mid-20s when he arrived in the New World.


Not much is known about my 9th great-grandfather. He married a woman named Frances, helped settle the town of Topsfield, Massachusetts, and fathered about four children—only one of whom (my 8th great-grandfather) left traceable descendants. Peter died in the town of Boxford, Massachusetts in 1695 and was buried there in what’s known as the Ancient Graveyard.

The Ancient Graveyard in Boxford, Massachusetts (personal visit in 2017)

Nothing is known of Peter’s origins. We presume, based on historical context of the Huguenot refugees, he was from the west coast of France near the city of La Rochelle. He definitely assimilated well into the English Puritan culture since none of the records even speak of his French origins. We don’t even know if the supposed French surname, Chamois, is even our original surname—it’s simply the best guess we have when comparing other known Huguenot families in the meager French Protestant records of the era. Within just one generation, our surname anglicized from whatever French surname it was (possibly Chamois) into Shumway. Hence, my surname is a completely American name with no ties whatsoever to my ancestral fatherland.


My Journey of Ancestral Healing

I first encountered the concept and practice of Ancestral Lineage Healing towards the end of 2019. Specifically, the work of Dr. Daniel Foor made its way to my awareness via podcast, and I was drawn to it immediately. I have since been working to train as a practitioner in the modality.


Ancestral Lineage Healing is way for us to tap into the deep inner knowledge we inherit from our ancestors. It is a way for us to identify and understand the historical, intergenerational traumas we have inherited from our ancestors, and then work to heal generational wounds and reconnect with an older, more vibrant ancestral energy that our ancient indigenous ancestors were in tune with.


Ancestral Lineage Healing work targets one lineage branch at a time. Specifically, what are known as the Four Primary Lineages, which are: father’s father, father’s mother, mother’s father, and mother’s mother.


As I began my first foray into the healing work, I immediately sensed my father’s father line (i.e. the direct male lineage) was where I was called to begin.


When doing Ancestral Lineage Healing work, we drop into a deep, embodied state where we can tap into and access the greater subconscious wisdom that is not only stored within our bodies, but also the larger spiritual realm of knowledge we are constantly connected to (aka the Divine, God, etc.). As I began to assess the health of the spiritual energy stretching from myself back through my father and grandfathers, I began to sense a very deep wound that began with Peter, my 9th-great-grandfather.


I felt moved to conduct more research into Peter’s life to find answers, and I ultimately confirmed his involvement in the Great Swamp Massacre. As I uncovered that historical fact, I knew immediately that was the source of a great lineage wound that has been passed along through the males in my lineage. However, I also became very aware of the fact that Peter came to the Americas already traumatized and carrying other deep lineage wounds.


Many centuries before Catholic aggressions, and before Peter left his native France, his ancient ancestors (and mine), the Pictones, lived in the region that would later be known as western France. The Pictiones were a Celtic tribe, and little is known about their culture, language, and traditional ways of being. Roman conquest obliterated the Picton culture and many other Celtic tribes in Western Europe, Britain, and Ireland. Those who survived converted to Christianity and assimilated into new cultures that were very different from the earth-honoring, indigenous ways these peoples had cultivated for millennia. In France, only the Bretons (another Celtic people from present-day Brittany, France) managed to retain threads of their ancient Celtic culture.

Pictones Coinage (1st Century BC - Wikipedia)

Healing the Shumway Lineage

Healing a lineage can, overall, be a fairly simple process despite all of the historical trauma handed down through the generations. That is because we are not the ones responsible for doing the actual healing work. Instead, we connect with the spirits/energies of the more ancient, well ancestors—those who lived and died in a state of intact culture, wellness, and connection to ancestors and Mother Earth. They are the ones who initiate the healing after being invited to participate in the process.


For my Shumway lineage, there were two parts to the healing. The first involved healing the more ancient ancestral lineage from Peter all the way back to a more ancient ancestor who was the last in the line to be connected to the more vibrant spiritual and cultural states I mentioned previously.


The Great Swamp Massacre Site (April 2021)

The second part was the healing leading from Peter to myself and our other present-day Shumway descendants. For this, my ancient, wise and well ancestors prompted me for something very specific: to take a small bit of soil from the site of the Great Swamp Massacre (in present-day Rhode Island) and, as part of a sacred ritual, plant a tree on my family’s farm in Wyoming, offer the soil, and dedicate the farm as a place of peace and regeneration. It was a small gesture to honor the lives of the Narraganset people whose lives and culture were so harmed by the aggressions of the White colonizers.


How to get soil from Rhode Island was a puzzle I didn’t initially know how to solve. I didn’t know anyone there, but I did have a friend in Massachusetts, so I messaged him and, being somewhat embarrassed, explained my objective and asked if he’d ever be up for a short road trip to the Great Swamp Massacre site in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.


My friend was deeply touched and excited to help with the effort, and I was surprised to learn he had recently moved to Belchertown, Massachusetts. My Shumway ancestors lived in Belchertown for a number of generations before migrating to upstate New York in the 1820s. Then, my friend explained that his great-great-grandfather was Colonel Patrick E. Connor who led the U.S. Army in the infamous Bear River Massacre in Southeast Idaho in 1863–an ancestral figure he and his family are not proud of. This was an incredible synchronicity I could have not imagined! Needless to say, my friend was eager to help since it was a way for him to also participate in some ancestral healing work of his own.

The Great Swamp Massacre Memorial (April 2021)

A few weeks later, my friend mailed me a bag of beautiful, dark, rich soil, along with a myriad of pictures he took at the site. Then, we waited until Memorial Day weekend 2021 to visit my family on the farm in Wyoming. I had sensed that was when my ancestors wished the ritual to take place.


My family members were excited about the ritual, and on a beautiful warm, sunny Memorial Day, several members of my family gathered together to plant a red cherry blossom tree we found at a local nursery. The tree actually selected itself to be our Healing Tree, and finding it had its own series of synchronicities. Together we dug a small hole, placed the tree in it, and then, being guided by the ancestors, I offered ritual prayer. It was a beautiful experience that I will always remember.


Over the last seven or eight years, my family has been moved to transition the dairy farm (Shumway Farms) to an organic, regenerative farm after learning of the importance of soil restoration and farming in harmony with Mother Earth. So, it was only fitting to officially dedicate the farm as a place of regeneration—a place where all beings (human and non-human) can thrive and find refuge. Specifically, our farm is intended to be a place to honor nature’s ways—just like the Narragansett stewarded their lands (as well as the Shoshone people whose ancestral lands comprise where my ancestors settled in Wyoming in the 1880s). After the prayer, my dad and I each placed some of the Rhode Island soil around the base of the tree, and then we all took turns filling in the hole.


Conclusion

The experience of the Healing Tree has taught me a lot, but what has been most beautiful is to see so many synchronicities and blessings align for me and my family! The farm had its most successful season yet in 2021, and many new exciting developments are falling into place for this upcoming year!


For me, I have also witnessed the ancestors opening doors and guiding my husband and I to where we need to be at this time. Originally, we thought we would end up back in Wyoming on the farm, but the Universe had other plans. Instead, magical events transpired for us to find our new home here in the high desert mountains of southern Utah (ancestral lands of the Ute and Nuwuvi peoples) where we have found peace, purpose, community, and a vibrant land who loves us and wishes us to be part of its own magical journey. In fact, after we settled into our new home, we used the rest of the sacred Rhode Island soil I saved to dedicate our own small farm as a place of peace and regeneration!